Lent 3—Year C–March 24, 2019
Exodus 3:1-15, Psalm 63:1-8, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Luke 13:1-9
Interesting sentence Paul gives us today: “Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” Paul is quoting Exodus 32 verse 6 which describes the scene in which the children of Israel, panicking over Moses’ delay on Mt Sinai with a god they can’t see, get Aaron to make a golden calf from their jewelry so they can worship themselves and party—think Mardi Gras in New Orleans!
Paul’s problem with this partying is not that he is a prude. Jews then and now know how to properly celebrate with wine, song, and dancing, like Jesus does at the wedding at Cana of Galilee. The problem is that worship of anything, whether object, desire, success, nation, ideology, or person which are not God, automatically disconnects us from awareness of True God and True Self and thus destroys the well-being of community and individual.
The reason the 7 deadly sins, Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Wrath, and Sloth, are considered deadly is precisely because they perpetuate our forgetfulness of our oneness with God. Of course, our culture has elevated Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, and Wrath into behaviors that are admired and celebrated. Some will remember the famous 1987 movie “Wall Street” in which Michael Douglas plays Gordon Gekko, a high flying corporate raider who teaches his disciples that “Greed is good.”
Jesus teaches his disciples that serving the poor, the sick, and the stranger is good and leads to the abundant life. Jesus reveals the character of God as Love in living in just this way. But still in today’s gospel he has to unmask the notion that God is a violent, punishing god who zaps this one with cancer and that one with poverty because they were bad little boys and girls.
He says, “Do you think that because these Galileans were murdered by Pilate while offering their sacrifices in the Temple that they were bigger sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you….”
God does not make bad things happen as punishment for sins. Those slaughtered by Pilate’s troops are suffering because of the violence and vainglory of Pilate. Those crushed by the tower suffer because of shoddy workmanship.
We are not punished for our sins–But we are punished by our sins.
Drink a quart of Vodka every day and your body and mind will suffer.. Treat others badly every day and you will end up lonely and miserable.
The Buddhists call it Karma, “what goes around comes around”. The Bible calls it “what you sow is what you reap.” Abuse others on Twitter and Facebook and you will find others abusing you in the same way. We all have enough personal experience to know this is true.
But Jesus then goes on to say twice something startling: “But unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
So what gives here, is Jesus talking out of both sides of his mouth—we are not punished for our sins, but then we’d better repent so we won’t be punished for our sins?
To understand this saying we have to take it more literally than we’re used to.
Look at it this way: Jesus is walking around Galilee showing people how to access the kingdom of God, which is all around them and within them. Jesus preaches, teaches, and heals in order to transform the consciousness of people, so they can experience God as their Motherly Father here and now and thus live as children who reflect the character of God, their Fatherly Mother. (Marjorie Suchocki)
The Old Testament Prophets figured out hundreds of years before Christ that if a new world of love, peace, and justice is to appear on earth God will have to change the hearts of the people. God will have to perform radical surgery, removing their hearts of stone and putting in hearts of flesh. Or to change the image, God will have to write the Law of Love on their hearts, because having the law in our heads has led inequality, prejudice, injustice, and violence.
Put another way, Jesus seeks to raise the consciousness of the people, who are trapped in the idea that is someone kicks you, kick them back harder. The ancient world improved on this under the rubric of “an eye for an eye”, which is better than “take my eye and I’ll kill you and your family”. But as Gandhi rightly noted, when taken to its logical conclusion, taking “an eye for an eye” will make the whole world blind.
In Jesus’ day the central political problem is how do get rid of the Romans who are occupying our country? And the most popular answer is, through violent revolution.
But Jesus teaches that if you live by the sword you will die by the sword. If you try to violently overthrow Pontius Pilate and his troops you will end up being slaughtered by them. And the rest will end up crushed under falling stones, when Rome pushes down the walls of Jerusalem on top of you.
Jesus says if you don’t repent of this strategy of violence, violence will be your fate, as indeed happened when in 70 AD when Rome crushed the rebellion and tore down the Temple, and the massive walls surrounding Jerusalem.
This doesn’t happen because God is on the side of the Romans, but because the people refuse to repent of this insane path, and return to the path of God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.
I assume we aren’t preparing for violent revolution, so do we have anything to repent of?
Well, of course individually we repent of the seven deadly sins, and turn back to our connection to God.
Corporately, we need to repent every time we follow a political idol and ideology that seeks wealth and power at the expense of others and return to the God who hears the cries of the oppressed and is working to set them free.
Since it is the nature of God and the nature of Reality to liberate the oppressed whenever any political or economic system becomes disconnected from the love of neighbor it will sooner or later collapse under the weight of its own idolatry, pride, and greed.
But living a life than includes the happiness of our neighbor in our own happiness requires a higher consciousness. That’s why Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3 that if he wants to experience the Kingdom of God he must submit to a radical procedure and be born again, this time from above.
Nicodemus must allow the Spirit to replace his old software that is running the world, with the software that is running in Jesus.
The more we allow the download of the software of Jesus the more we will understand Jesus when he says, things like “love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you, forgive 70 times 7, give to all who ask from you, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and welcome the stranger. , and the one without sin can throw the first stone.”
What is the software of Jesus? It is “the continuous realization of your oneness with God—the realization of your true identity” as Joel Goldsmith puts it.
This is the fruit God is looking for and therefore Jesus digs around our roots, our consciousness, and feeds us with his own life, so we can have the fruit of his Spirit produced in us and through us.
Therefore, we are wise to repent by saying, “Yes Master Christ, do whatever is necessary in me, so I too can bear the fruit of God.”